Wednesday, February 04, 2015

3 Rules for Magical, Musical, Moving Performances


In recent months, I've heard a lot of teachers discussing and wondering how to help students play with emotion and feel their performances to create something magical. I wondered that myself for a very long time, and during my early years of teaching, I said things such as, "Play with feeling" or "Play with emotion" or "Play from your heart" because those things had been said to me by teachers when I was growing up. 

However, I have always been a concrete-sequential learner and I just couldn't figure out what my teachers meant when they said things that were so abstract. So I just did my best, always wondering if I was measuring up to their expectations of "playing with feeling". Eventually, things naturally started to click, but those early years definitely left me feeling a bit unsure of myself with regards to playing musically. 

Fast-forward many years to today, and I'm going to share what's working for me and my students right now. Rather than giving them abstract directions like the above statements, I have found that giving them concrete directions helps them know what to do when they haven't yet learned to tap into their own emotions and feelings, and it helps students begin to understand what "music does" and what "music wants to do" in a general sense, and how they can use that knowledge to play musically. 

These concrete directions are "music rules" that I teach my students from very early on in their piano lessons, and we review and review until these rules become healthy habits, which evolve into beautiful and musical performances that have made me cry more than once in lessons. I'm thrilled when that happens, and my students don't quite know what to do when Mrs. Melody is sitting in her chair with tears streaming down her face and mom is sitting on the sofa speechless, wiping the tears away. Those moments are beyond magical. 

How can you create such depth and musicality in your own students' playing? How can your students present such moving performances that YOU are the one sitting in silence, your cheeks glistening with tears of joy? 

If your students follow these 3 rules, they will have the ability to create magical, musical, moving performances every time they play the piano. 


I know, it sounds so simple, but it's truly a very important part of teaching students how to shape a phrase. During a beginning student's first lesson (the mini-lesson held during the student's interview), I teach students how to play "Billy Boy" by rote. "Billy Boy" is a brilliantly-composed black key piece from the Finger Starters book by Lynn Freeman Olson, and I use it to teach quarter and half notes, steady beat, form, ritardando, and Music Rule #1 (decrescendo), all during the first lesson. I don't tell students the musical terms just yet - we simply talk about what the music wants to do. I teach the piece by rote, then we play it as a duet. I've memorized the accompaniment so that I don't need to play from the book, and that makes the moment feel so much more organic. We definitely make the most of this short piece of music!  The parents LOVE that their child can play a piece in less than 10 minutes, the child sounds amazing, and when we add Music Rule #1 to the end (a nice decrescendo) then go even further and add a ritardando, I've truly seen parents get emotional during the interview. It's beautiful. 


I introduce Music Rule #2 to students after they have become comfortable with Music Rule #1. Then we look for the shape of the melody within their pieces, they learn to draw the "get louder" and "get softer" symbols throughout their pieces, then they learn to play louder and softer and begin shaping phrases. I make a huge deal of how amazing the music sounds when they play this way, and the way they are playing, combined with the grins on their faces, let me know they really understand what to do. Of course, this is all presented to them in a very concrete, precise, and logical way, in incremental steps that they can follow, without giving them the names of the symbols until a week or two later. I truly believe that teaching them these ideas of musicality as concrete rules is a necessary step towards independent musicality, which is my goal with all of my students. 


Now that Music Rules #1 and #2 are solidly in place, I introduce Music Rule #3: The highest note is usually the loudest. Music Rule #3 introduces the idea of a phrase's focal point and gives students the opportunity to understand how to shape a phrase as it moves towards the focal point and away from the focal point. I also tell my students that we'll draw an arrow to this note because it's at the top of the mountain, and that helps us know how far we need to climb. 

I was introducing focal points to one of my little girls recently, and coincidentally, she had been studying Mount Fuji at school that day. She immediately named all of the the focal points in her piece Mount Fuji, and declared that she had to climb and climb, louder and louder, to reach the top of Mount Fuji, then once she reached the top, she would yell "Hooray!", then go down the other side, softer and softer as she went. It was especially adorable that the first focal point we were discussing was Treble G, so she lovingly named that focal point "Mount Foo-G". She's such a cutie :) The idea of focal points definitely came to life for her that day, and I had no doubt she would always remember how to find them in her music and be able to shape her phrases both towards and away from the focal points. 

These 3 simple yet profound rules are easy enough for any student to grasp and follow, and they'll give even your least-musical kiddos the opportunity to wow you with their new ability to play musically. Once students become accustomed to these music rules and are comfortable using them on a daily basis, the abstract idea of playing musically begins to permeate them, and they naturally begin to make the shift from playing musically in a concrete way, to playing musically in the truest sense of the word. 

Eventually, I introduce balance, voicing, tone matching, and more to their toolbox, but that's another post for another day. 

I've uploaded a free set of these 3 music rules to my TpT store, and you can download the set here. In exchange for the free download, please leave a kind word of feedback on the product page. Thank you! 

What are YOUR tried and true aids for helping students play musically? Please share them by leaving a comment below. 

Freebie: 3 Rules for Magical, Musical, Moving Performances


Monday, February 02, 2015

Learn to Teach Pop Piano with PianoFlix

One of your students enters your studio for his lesson and places a piece of sheet music on the music rack of your piano. He says he wants to learn to play it for the school talent show (only 3 weeks away!), and you become a little nervous because that particular student isn't known for learning music quickly. You lean in for a closer look and notice a piece of pop music. You panic. Why? Because your training is in classical music and you have no idea what to do next!

Panic no longer, friends, because help is on the way! You may have heard about a fabulous new course by Tim Topham, one of our foremost international authorities on teaching pop piano music, and the course is called PianoFlix: Teaching Pop Piano.

PianoFlix: Teaching Pop Piano is an eight-video series broken down into clear and concise step-by-step instructions that will have you feeling comfortable and confident about teaching pop piano music in no time! I had the pleasure of taking this course recently, and it is well worth the investment. This video series is packed with information, resources, and teaching tips, and there are also a ton of helpful hints, extras, videos, links, and more that will provide you with so many additional ideas to explore!

Here are the topics that are covered in PianoFlix, and you can even watch the first two for free! These titles and descriptions listed below are from the PianoFlix website, which contains some amazing information on this course. You'll definitely want to click any of the links in this article to visit Tim's website. Read the information contained on that page, and I'm sure you'll be hooked on PianoFlix!

Video 1: Before you begin...
Bringing pop into your teaching, pedagogical merits of pop piano, balancing the musical diet, the pop teacher's mindset

Chords and progressions, the amazing HookTheory, circle of fifths, and form and structure {Yes, you can teach all these things within the context of pop piano! What a win-win situation!}

Video 3: Where to find music
Terrific online resources for locating music, using YouTube video tutorials, finding usefulness in guitar tabs

Video 4: You want to play what?!!
What to do in the scenario in this article's opening paragraph, resources, links, videos, teaching and playing by ear, working out what the student wants to play

Video 5: Re-arranging for dummies
What to do if a student asks to play a song that is too hard, making songs playable even when they're too difficult, simplifying left hand patterns

Video 6: Pop that works on piano
The best pop songs for piano, finding the best music to teach, the pop music wiki page, helping students understand that some pop music is better than others

Video 7: Apps and technology
Best apps for teaching pop, demonstrations of using these apps, HookTheory, more tech resources and links

Video 8: Arranging 101
Helping students make their own pop arrangements, arranging ideas, experimenting with styles, and online examples

You can already tell just by reading the titles and brief descriptions of the videos that you're in for a real treat! Even if you know (or feel you know) absolutely nothing about teaching pop piano, there's no reason to fear. Tim starts at the very beginning and presents the information in a logical fashion. You'll also have lifetime access to the videos, so you can go back and review them any time you want! {Can you tell I'm really excited about PianoFlix?}

If you're teaching teens, they'll be asking about learning their favorite pop tunes at some point, so why wait until they ask you? Sign up for this training course, learn how to teach pop music at the piano, and surprise your students with your newly-formed teaching skills!

If you have teens whose motivation might have waned, this would also be a terrific way to encourage them to stay in piano lessons. I think most teens would LOVE to play pop tunes!

In some parts of the world (hi to our friends in the southern hemisphere!), it is summertime, and teachers and students are on holiday. Why not use part of your holiday to take this course, expand your teaching skills, and surprise your students with a fun new way of approaching piano lessons? They'll thank you over and over again.

This would also be a PERFECT topic for a summer camp for your students!

PianoFlix: Teaching Pop Piano is a video series that you'll definitely want to investigate. The regular price is only $129US, but you can save $20 right now by using code MELODY001 when you sign up, and pay only $109US! That's an amazing deal on such a valuable course.

Think about the possibilities here... Add pop piano to your teaching repertoire, your teens will share the news with their friends, and you may have new students knocking on your door! Set your studio apart with PianoFlix: Teaching Pop Piano. You'll be so glad you did!


Monday, January 12, 2015

Teach Music Online with The Worldwide Music School


The growing number of music teachers who are gaining knowledge and skills in the use of technology during music lessons is generating a huge increase in the number of teachers who are interested in teaching music lessons online. I am one of the teachers who teaches weekly online lessons via Skype, and I absolutely love working with my students via this platform. I enjoy teaching online students so much that I want to grow my online studio, and this is where MusicMonde: The Worldwide Music School enters the picture. 


MusicMonde: The Worldwide Music School is a new company that was started in 2014 by John Foreman and brought to us via website and app by Easy Ear Training (read more here and here). The primary goal of MusicMonde is to facilitate the connection of potential online music students with online music teachers via MusicMonde's app and website. The website contains a library of articles about online music lessons in organ, guitar, piano, and singing, as well as a directory of teachers who teach a variety of music lessons online. 

To put it simply, teachers who teach online lessons sign up to be listed on the website and app so that students who are seeking online music lessons can view the list of available teachers, choose the one that fits them best, and make contact with the potential teacher through the website or app so that an interview can take place and lessons can begin. More and more teachers are signing up to be part of the MusicMonde School, and signing up is a very simple process. 

View my MusicMonde teacher profile here.

If you're already teaching music lessons online, click here to contact MusicMonde about becoming a MusicMonde teacher.  

If you are not an online music teacher, but you know of potential students who are interested in studying music online, you can direct them to the app or website to search for an instructor. 

If you are not currently teaching music lessons online via a platform such as Skype or FaceTime, but you want to learn how to teach music lessons online, see the *** below for more information.

One of my favorite things about MusicMonde is that the goal is to facilitate connection between a student and teacher, but everything else is up to the teacher (scheduling, payments, policies, etc.). I really like the fact that I can include an online student in my studio by having them follow my current policies and tuition structure, just as my in-person students do. Most online lessons websites do not follow this model, so I truly do like that about MusicMonde. This helps during a day of lessons when switching back and forth from in-person to online lessons. The switching back and forth becomes a seamless transition, and I don't have to remember separate policies, payment structures, schedules, etc., because all of my students are following the same procedures. 

Take a look at the MusicMonde website to discover all that it has to offer, and be sure you read the articles in the library and check out the teacher profiles. It's a great time to be an online music teacher! 


*** Do online music lessons seem a bit daunting? Do you know what equipment and technology you need to teach a successful online lesson? Do you know how to set up and use your equipment? What about finding students? Or getting paid? Or setting up your policy? Or knowing which activities can be successful in an online lesson? Are there specific teaching tips you should use for online lessons? How about pros and cons of online teaching? Or troubleshooting when something goes wrong? 

Put your fears behind you and learn to be a successful and confident online teacher with the step-by-step information included in my training webinar, "Getting Started with Online Lessons". Learn what equipment you will need, where to purchase it, how to set it up, the pros and cons of online lessons, how to teach an online lesson, and much more in this 85-minute training video. It is divided into several short sections, so it is easy to watch only what you have time to watch or review a section that especially interests you. Plus, everyone who purchases access to the video is also invited to join an exclusive Facebook group where more discussion takes place, questions are answered, and online lesson video segments are uploaded and shared. The link is included with your purchase. 

Use coupon code PLUCKYPIANISTABLOG to save $10 off the rental price! The rental period expires ONE YEAR from the date of purchase, so you'll have all the time you need to watch the video as many times as you like and become an amazing online music teacher. The very first tuition payment you receive from your first online student will more than cover the price of the webinar, so you'll be making a profit by teaching online in no time! 

Now go grab that bowl of popcorn, get comfy, and enjoy the training session!




Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Ringing in the New Year!

What a year 2014 has been, and I can't believe it is winding down so quickly. I've been away from blogging and working on my teaching products for awhile, but it's wonderful to be back! To welcome the new year with open arms, I thought I'd share about a few things that I've been working on, and throw a sale in my TpT store! The sale runs 12/31 through 1/1, and I know you'll find some things that will be fun for your students in the new year. Click the links or photos to visit the store.

Best wishes for a beautiful year filled with blessings, love, health, and anticipation of wonderful things to come!



Group Setting: 
Each group needs only one spider spinner page (plastic spinners must be purchased separately). Each person in the group needs his own notation page. A variety of time signatures is included, as well as a page without time signatures. The students take turns spinning the spinner, then notating the rhythm onto their notation sheet. After the rhythms have been notated, the students take turns performing their rhythms for their peers. 

Individual Setting: 
Student needs one spinner page and one notation sheet. The student spins the spinner, notates the rhythm, and the performs it for the teacher. 

Performance Tips: 
Students should be creative when performing! Marching, tapping, snapping, performing in the style of the Cup Game, using Boomwhackers, classroom percussion instruments, the piano, and playing a clapping game are only a few of the countless ways students can move to their newly created rhythm patterns. Have fun! 



In these eight fun worksheets, students match intervals, travel through a puzzle following the given interval, identify intervals, and write intervals. Lots of review featuring a variety of activities!



Set includes full color cards only. 92 intervals notated on the staff (2nds, 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, 6ths, 7ths, and octaves both ascending and descending) as well as 42 number intervals (the actual words "2nd", "3rd", etc.) are included, plus one blank staff set that students can use for interval notation, for a grand total of 140 cards! 



72 music math flash cards are included, 18 of each of the following combinations:
Addition (quarter, half, dotted half, and whole notes)
Multiplication (quarter, half, dotted half, and whole notes)
Addition (quarter, half, dotted half, and whole notes, and quarter, half, and whole rests)
Multiplication (quarter, half, dotted half, and whole notes, and quarter, half, and whole rests)



Sunday, November 30, 2014

It's a Cyber Sale AND a Linky Party!

The last leftovers of Thanksgiving have been devoured, we're all back to our normal routine for a couple more weeks before Christmas break, and what do you know, it's time for a fabulous Cyber Sale at Teachers Pay Teachers! Hope you have those wish lists filled and ready to go! Use code TPTCYBER at checkout for amazing savings. 



Today I'm linking up with Music a la Abbott's Rockin' Resources Linky Party to let you know about three products that I am so excited about! In this linky party, you'll be reading about a product from my own store, as well as a couple of products from the stores of others. Read on, friends!


The first product on my list is one of my favorite products for the winter season, "Let the Music Games Begin!" This was one of my best-selling products last year during the Winter Olympic Games, and it's a fun game to play with your students on a cold and snowy winter day. It's perfect for group use, or in the private music lesson setting!



The game is divided into six “winter sporting events” and includes:

    • Event 1: Improv and charades picture cards {16 cards}
    • Event 2: Improv and charades phrase cards {16 cards}
    • Event 3: Piano key cards to describe and play {16 cards}
    • Event 4: Rhythm cards to perform {16 cards}
    • Event 5: Music term cards to define and/or draw {16 cards}
    • Event 6: Notes to identify and play {16 cards}
    • 16 cards in each event (that’s 96 cards per set!) 
    • One page containing the backs of the cards
    • A winter game board
    • Bonus coloring sheets are included as well!
Here are just a few screen shots to give you an idea of what's inside this fun and wintery download:





These game cards are perfect for both groups and individual students! There are many possibilities for using them, and here are a couple of suggestions. 

Jeopardy-style game: Use the title pages as the headings and use selected cards as the Jeopardy answers. Students should phrase their answer in the form of a question. To keep score, Assign point values to each question, or give the card to the student who answers correctly. 

Using the game board: one die is needed. In this version of the game, students draw a card, then do what the card requires. Students who answer correctly roll the die and move forward on the game board. Students who answer incorrectly do not move their game piece forward. 

Flash cards: use the cards as flash cards with a single student or as friendly competition among multiple students. 


Here's another music product that I'm really excited about, and I know you'll love it too! Pirate Rhythms by Sally Utley is a fun way for students to practice their rhythms in a fun and piratey way! Sally describes the product this way: "This Smart Notebook will guide students through the process of naming pirate characters to determine if the names have one, two or four syllables. Students then practice reading 4-beat patterns using various combinations of characters and jargon. The final section allows students to slide the characters to create their own patterns to read. A worksheet is included to extend the lesson." Now doesn't that sound like a ton of fun? I think so!



And finally, here's something I've had my eye on, and I can't wait to download and start using this Adorable Merry Little Christmas clipart by The Doodle Oven! Imagine the possibilities... and aren't they the cutest little bulbs you've ever seen! Perfect for creating clever and colorful Christmas products, these merry little bulbs will de-"LIGHT" your students!



I hope you all enjoy the Cyber Sale at TpT, where you can save up to 20% on your purchases December 1-2 using code TPTCYBER! 

Happy shopping, dear friends! 



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